It sounds a little like someone’s idea of a joke. Apple is supposedly working on bringing an electric car to market, despite its lack of experience in the field or any previous automotive operation. Nonetheless, it’s been reported that Apple has a skunkworks of some 600 employees looking to bring a vehicle to market by 2019. The concept, dubbed Project Titan, has reportedly been studied for years, but Apple recently decided to triple the size of its team and bring on an additional 1200 people. Since no photos or finished product is available, we’ve decided to bring you the best of the mockups and concepts the Internet has to offer. You can thank us later.
Right now, Cupertino isn’t expected to debut a fully autonomous car the first time out, despite having hired multiple individuals who have worked in the nascent industry. Supposedly Apple wants to apply its mastery of supply-chain economics to cutting the cost of bringing electric cars to market, but there are a heck of a lot more questions than answers right now. Let’s start with the basics: Car sales in the US are dominated by franchises and dealer relationships. Multiple states have actively bowed to these interests by making it more and more difficult to buy a Tesla. That kind of experience doesn’t really square with the effortless acquisition model that Apple prizes, but it’s not clear how the company will address the space.
The electric competition
Tesla could be the other fly in Apple’s ointment. The upstart manufacturer doesn’t have anything like Apple’s market cap or mammoth cash reserves, but it has established itself as the early leader in the luxury electric space. Tesla isn’t the only luxury car manufacturer with a high-end EV, but you’d scarcely know that based on model coverage. This isn’t really a question of whether or not Apple can afford to leverage itself into the car market — Apple had more than $200 billion of cash in the bank this past summer. The computer and smartphone manufacturer is literally worth more than a fair number of countries. When you have enough cash on hand to buy your way into the market by literally buying any major auto manufacturer that suits you, conventional barriers to entry don’t really apply.
The real questions around any potential Apple car is why the company would want to launch itself into this space and what it thinks it can offer. It’ll face sharp competition from the likes of BMW, Mercedes, and Tesla itself. The Model X and Model E should both be well-established by that point, with the Model E offering much of what makes the S such a status symbol for (hopefully) a price point that people can afford. It’s easy to imagine why Apple might want to own the infotainment system in a high-end vehicle, or provide the mapping and voice-activated features like Siri, but it’s a huge step from providing an ecosystem to providing a car.